February 16 – Chronological Life of Jesus Day 33
You may have heard about Mardi Gras or seen the advertisements for all the fish fries starting up; that means Lent starts this week. Lent is 40 days of preparation for Easter, often observed with fasting and repentance. Mardi Gras has become about getting all the sin you can in before you have to repent during Lent. And the fish fries I’ve been to are all about free refills on beer. Despite where we’ve allowed sin in, Lent can be a good time to focus on Jesus—his ministry, his grace, his sacrifice. How cool that our chronological study matches up so well with Lent! We are entering the final months of Jesus’ ministry on earth just as Lent begins, and we will be reading about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead just as Lent ends! Invite your friends to join us for the rest of our chronological study! If you hear someone pondering their plans to observe Lent, invite them to join us! Hmmm, giving up chocolate or reading the Bible daily at the feet of Jesus? No brainer! And may be habit-forming.
READ: Matthew 16
Have you ever asked God for a sign? Maybe something simple like “God, if You want me to talk to that person, have him wink at me.” Or maybe something more complicated like “God, if You want me to follow You, make lightning strike right next to me.” What was the outcome of your request? Matthew 16:1-4 begins with the doubters (Pharisees and Sadducees) asking Jesus for a sign. I guess they forgot one of the Old Testament laws from Deuteronomy 6:16: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” Jesus’ response was not so gentle in this case. He even called them a wicked and adulterous generation. I think the last half of verse 3 means this: you want a sign from heaven? You don’t even seen the flashing sign walking and talking right in front of you, the Son of God sent from heaven! The sign of Jonah that Jesus mentions in verse 4 is further explained back in Matthew 12:39-41 during a very similar exchange that Jesus had with the Pharisees. It alludes to what is coming after Jesus’ death—the most amazing miracle from heaven yet—Jesus’ resurrection and conquering of death so that those who believe will have eternal life. And with that, Jesus walked off. He knew any further teaching to these stubborn fools would be wasted breath.
I sense in this chapter Jesus’ frustration just building and building (vs. 5-12, 13-14, 21-28). Time is of the essence in his final six months of ministry on earth. He knows the urgency, but those following him don’t get it. In one moment of clarity in this chapter, Peter states his belief (vs. 16): “’You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” AMEN! But just a few verses later in verse 23, Peter’s love and protection of Jesus are rebuked as being from Satan. The disciples like having Jesus around to lead them and teach them, so much that they would rather hang on to him than let him do what he ultimately came to do–offer salvation for all humanity. Hence, Jesus launches into a teaching on worldly gain verses spiritual gain, something I struggle with daily too. Our culture is so focused on worldly gain that it has become our measure of success, while spiritual gain in Christ is often looked at negatively. Our churches are even suffering from this, with success being measured by the number of seats filled on a Sunday morning, or by the amount of money in the offering plate, or by how many amenities are being offered. By the law of nature, our souls can not be measured. I’ve heard sermons talking about spiritual gain as storing up our treasures in heaven, but even if we are focused on doing things that store up treasures for future gain, we are still being selfish. Jesus clearly states in verse 24, “’If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” Good really-real heart change under God can not have selfish motives. If I’m doing things just to store up treasures for myself in heaven, I’m missing that whole part on denying myself.
Peter’s rebuke from Jesus also comes right after Jesus declares that Peter is the rock on which God will build his church (vs. 18). We all have room to grow. Even Peter was not perfect, and Jesus said Peter would be given the keys to the kingdom of heaven (vs. 19). How comforting to know You can use me wherever I’m at.
I don’t have to be cleaned up and perfect to give You the glory or to do Your kingdom work. You will mold my heart into its God-intended shape if I let You.
Thank You for being patient with me when I don’t get it, when my heart is as stubborn as a Pharisee, and when I’m seeking selfish gains. I desire to follow after You which means I must deny my selfish tendencies. Continue to use me for Your purposes and mold me into a woman after Your heart.